Artist Guy Stanley Philoche had just had an amazing sold-out show and was getting ready to reward himself with a beautiful Rolex watch worth $20,000 when coronavirus struck. Soon, New York City, where he lived, became a COVID-19 epicenter.
With many families unable to afford basic necessities like food, Philoche realized that spending that huge sum of money on the watch would not be worth it, considering his own artist friend was then struggling as a new dad after losing his job. Eventually, Philoche bought a painting from his artist friend to get him through. That was when 43-year-old Philoche understood that other artists may be suffering the same plight.
The pandemic closed galleries and museums all over the world while art shows were canceled, putting various artists in difficult situations as art essentially became a luxury for many. In his small little New York apartment literally covered with artwork, Philoche came up with an idea to help his fellow artists in the city and elsewhere in the world.
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In March, he went on Instagram and asked artists who were being affected by the pandemic to direct message him their work, adding that he had $20,000 to spend. “I was looking just to make sure that people had groceries, people had diapers, people were able to pay half their rent,” he told People. “It was just my way to try and help out as much as possible.”
Right after his Instagram post, artists from across the world sent him their creations. He chose pieces he was in love with, bought those pieces and paid for them to be shipped to his East Harlem studio. “There was this one artist who had never sold anything in his whole life. I was like, ‘Hey man, I love your work. And you know what, I’m buying two pieces’.”
“And he was just like, ‘I’ve never sold anything before. Oh my God.’”
Philoche said along the way his collectors joined his project, giving him money to buy pieces for them. So far, he has spent more than $60,000 on the project.
“Art saved my life. I owe it a debt I could never repay, but the only way to really repay it is by buying other art from someone who hasn’t gotten a big break yet. And that’s what I’m going to keep doing,” he told CNN.
Born to Haitian parents who moved to Connecticut when he was just three years old, Philoche left home after high school to follow his dreams of being an artist. His parents were against his idea but he persisted and went to Paier College of Arts, working while taking classes. From one art gallery to the next, Philoche is now a star in the New York art world and has vowed to open a door for other artists.
He has another project he calls “Art for the People”; he places one of his paintings worth $110,000 on a street corner in New York City for a lucky person to find and own.